Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Just because you can...

...doesn't always mean that you should.

It's a fairly common occurrence, a physician recommends a procedure and the patient, especially the elderly patient it seems, readily complies with the recommendation without investigating all the available options. I say especially the elderly patient because the older generations have lived most of their lives in a culture that viewed medical professionals as infallible authorities. Those of us who have grown up with the information age are more likely to say, "Wait a minute" and question the doctor further, investigate their options and/or ask for a second opinion.

Please don't infer that I'm bashing the medical profession, far from it. It is my opinion that we have the best medical care in the world available to us in the US. But doctors are trained to fix things. And especially in cases involving older folks I don't necessarily think they are trained to consider that not "fixing" something might be the best option. I read this article today on the possibility that anesthesia may spur the onset of dementia in older patients. That would be a risk factor I would want to consider when faced with the possible need for a procedure.

We are very fortunate that Mama's primary care doctor is a firm believer in the least worst option. We have had several occasions when a specialist has firmly recommended a procedure or a medication that in Dr. G's opinion and ours was that the risks aren't worth the possible benefit. He knows her medical history, how her body responds and reacts to things and what her personal wishes are. So when the surgeons and specialists "come at her with scalpels" (Mama's words) she refers them straight to Dr. G and then we discuss the plan of action or inaction together. It's a beautiful thing.

Modern medicine is also a beautiful, wonderful thing. One of the reasons we can even have this discussion is because our lifespan continues to get longer and longer due to continually better medical care. But common sense and investigating all the options are still and always the very best medicine.